Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
For a game that featured a combined 12 runs in the first two innings, six errors and six extra-base hits, Tuesday’s contest between Jefferson City High School and Battle ended on an appropriate pitch: a wild one.
Grant Wood scurried home on a fastball that ricocheted off the Spartan catcher’s glove to seal the Jays’ 9-8 defeat of Battle in comeback fashion.
“Coach (Brian) Ash told me, ‘Anything by, you’re going,’” Wood said. “So I saw it (go) by, and I just took off.”
The run was Wood’s second of the day, and he drove in five himself, going 4-for-4 with a triple and two doubles.
“Grant was huge tonight,” Ash said. “He’s kind of been struggling offensively this year, and for him to come out here and perform like he did (was huge). Every ball he hit, he hit pretty hard.”
The Jays jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first inning, smacking five hits including Wood’s opposite-field triple that plated two.
“I was feeling it today,” Wood said. “Just trying to drive the ball where it was pitched.”
The Spartans didn’t let the Jays get comfortable, though, answering with a seven-spot of their own. Just as Battle had allowed two errors to prolong Jefferson’s City’s scoring burst, the Jays made two errors to extend the Spartans’ inning.
“That was tough,” Ash said. “You put five up in the first inning, you’re thinking obviously you’ve set the tone right there, and I felt like we were going to pitch it and catch it a little better than what we did.”
The Spartans sent 12 batters to the plate in the inning and ended the day early for Jays starter Blaine Meyer, though just one of his seven runs was earned.
“He’s been really, really good all year, and that’s going to happen,” Ash said of Meyer. “We knew our pitching at some point was going to have a let-down moment, and he came out and left balls high in the zone, and credit to Battle. They put some good swings on it.”
The Jays went down in order in the bottom of the second but began their climb in the third with back-to-back doubles from Adam Grunden and Wood to cut the lead to 7-6.
Battle regained its two-run edge in the fifth on two singles and a deep groundout to short, but once again Wood had the answer. The sophomore ripped a double to deep left-center to score Ripken Dodson and Bret Jaegers, who had reached on an error and a single, respectively. Wood got caught at the plate on a delayed double-steal attempt but the Jays had evened the score for the first time since the second inning.
Meanwhile, the Spartans’ scoring had stalled since its second-inning spurt. Battle tallied just three hits from third inning on, and Jacob Weirich shut things down when he entered to start the sixth, striking out four of his first six batters.
Wood led off the Jays’ half of the seventh with a single, leaving him just a home run shy of the cycle, and he moved over to second when Allan Roettgen drew a full-count walk. Both runners advanced a bag on a wild pitch, and the sixth pitch to Jake Pridgin went past the catcher.
Despite the short backstop of Vivion Field, Wood had enough time to comfortably score.
“It’s hard with the backstop being very springy,” Ash said. “I think we’ve caught ourselves to where we’re very reluctant to go. But I’m like, ‘I don’t care where it’s at. You’ve just got to go.’ (Battle reliever Mason Hunter) threw with some velocity, and we know it’s going to be tough to square balls up and score runs, so obviously we had to take a gamble.”
It paid off, improving the Jays to 8-6 on the season and 3-4 in one-run games.
“I was proud of our guys, how they fought back,” Ash said. “They could have easily rolled over like, ‘OK, here we go again.’ But they stuck with it.”
The Jays play at 5 p.m. today at Pacific.